Monday, June 09, 2003

Weblog Business Strategies 2003 V

Bruner, Clarke, Goodwin, Goza, Mooney, and Warner: Are Weblogs A Threat Or Opportunity For Enterprises?

Rick E. Bruner is president of Executive Summary Consulting Inc. Michael O'Connor Clarke is senior vice president of Weber Shandwick in Canada. Kathleen Goodwin is conference chairperson and CEO of iMakeNews. Beth Goza is community lead on the Windows client team for Microsoft Corporation. Jeff Mooney is director of content product management and educational services for MediaMap. Carin Warner is president of Warner Communications. Here is a rough transcript of their discussion:

Kathleen Goodwin: This panel is going to shed some perspectives on the threats Weblogs may pose.

Carin Warner: I run a full-service marketing company. I've seen a lot of corporate information and education. Weblogs are one of the most interesting forms to come our way.

Michael O'Connor Clarke: I work for one of the world's largest ad agencies. I am in effect extinct. I had a forwarding account that was supposed to be free for life, and then they started charging me. That means that I'm technically dead. I'm also a blogger.

Rick Bruner: I've been blogging for a little over a year. is a collaborative Weblog on Internet marketing.

Jeff Mooney: Our company provides data and software to the PR industry, and we just started including bloggers in our database.

Beth Goza: I'm really nervous. I'll try to belong here. I started my blog last summer when I attended Gnomedex. I had to take it down for a little while. I didn't have to. I chose to. I took it down because I was on the cover of the Register. I'm here because I'm a blogger.

Goodwin: I'd like to keep this open, so if we ask a question and don't get deep into it, don't be shy. Beth, how do you really see your personal and professional blogs fit into your work as the marketing mix?

Goza: The only blogging strategy a marketing department should have is no blogging strategy. I started my blog as a person. Invariably, it may become marketing as a default because as Doc and Dave say, marketing is a conversation. One of the things that blogs can do for any company is remove the layers between you and customers. One of the things I find interesting is when I read about Microsoft in the media, the perception is somewhat negative. One of the things I've discovered is that when I meet someone in person, they have something very positive to say. Weblogs personalize these large organizations.

Goodwin: Do you get your customers marketing to other customers?

Goza: I don't know. Anecdotally, I write about some cool things I've been doing with my tablet and then someone goes and gets a tablet, it's not like that was marketing.

Warner: That hearkens back to what someone said earlier about what to do with a CEO reluctant to blog. The answer is that you don't. Find someone who's passionate. If we want to be true to what I envision a blog to be, it's about somebody who's an evangelist, who's passionate, who wants the world to hear their story. They should be cultivated in a way that's controversial or else they won't be interesting.

Goodwin: How do you find those evangelists?

Bruner: Before we go too far down that road, I don't think we've really discussed what a blog is. To me, it comes down to the simplicity of the self-publishing platform. What you do with that is different. So far what we've heard is that to be a blog you need to be rantian, screedian. Personality is important to a Weblog, but by definition, I don't think it needs to be job one. There is a lot of value in aggregating and pointing to information without all the analysis.

Clarke: If you don't have personality, you don't have a blog. Is there anyone here who doesn't have any certainty about what a blog is? And does anyone even care?

Goodwin: There are varying degrees of what blogs are, but the platform for self-publishing is crucial. Good reading and good readership doesn't mean that a blogger needs to be controversial. They're compelling.

Question: It's not just personality. It's expertise.

Warner: It doesn't belong in the PR section of a Web site. That doesn't provide any service. It shouldn't be positioned as part of a contrived press kit.

Bruner: I'm not saying that's the only use for it. They have different uses in different parts of the company. I'm still a quasi-journalist and -analysts, and I get news alerts all the time. I'd rather go somewhere else to learn about a company.

Goza: I think of blogs as the anti-pop up. It's pull rather than push. People won't read your blog if there isn't energy, expertise, personality. That's what sustains blogs. The readers find value. Companies have forgotten how to pull people to learn more about them,

Clarke: Let's say you set up a corporate blog and you use it to point to articles of interest. The act of pointing to articles of interest proves that there's personality there. You're going to give not votes to something else. As a PR person, the media is not my audience. Hopefully you can be a vehicle to help me get to the audience of my clients. If you fundamentally believe that what your company does is good and right, then get the hell out of the way. Let people set up blogs on your corporate servers.

Mooney: Say you have your corporate blog. It's very well written. How do you measure whether it's successful? Is it readership? Traffic?

Warner: A better question might be do you want to measure it? Who's reading what and what they're most interested in would be very relevant. But it's more than analytic. How is it helping your brand voice and your brand identity in the marketplace? If it's always going to be undercutting what the corporation is saying, then you're in trouble.

Jason Shellen: A CEO's job primarily is to communicate strategy internally and externally. The opposition won't come from the CEO. It'll come from the PR department or someone else VP level who's scared of information.

Goza: One of our VP's, Eric Rudder, just started blogging. My blog is a personal blog. But Eric Rudder's blog is completely transparent: he works for Microsoft, and this is what he's working on. That's a big scare for PR and legal. People just love to sue us. You wouldn't have been able to hold Eric back. Other groups at Microsoft are, like, OK, how do we do this?

Clarke: I'd point them to your CEO.

Warner: It's much the same as news commentary right now. It's their thought. It's what they want to say. You can have the same role of the blogger to provide commentary.

Goza: The fear is how that content will be used by others.

Warner: It's the same as commentary.

Goodwin: What kind of messages do you consider the right type of messages to be sent?

Warner: It depends on the corporation. As a marketer, I'd say what's missing from the brand identity. If they only knew these three things, would that make a difference? What's behind all the corporate meanderings?

Clarke: That seems like the wrong question. What are the right things for newspapers to write about? Get out of the way. Let people blog what they choose to blog. People have some overlapping shared interests. If you're running your corporation well and have dialogue within your corporation, let that conversation spill over to the outside world.

Goza: I worry about the term guerrilla marketing getting associated with blogging. Do you all remember the whole Dr. Pepper fiasco? Dr. Pepper seeded a lot of product to bloggers and said write about it, but don't let anyone know we sent it to you. I don't want there to be any sense of impropriety. That will be the downfall of blogging. Blogging needs to understand the power of community.

Question: I'm the guy who ran the boycott of the Dr. Pepper campaign. It really got up my nose. If you want to analyze return on investment, all you need to do is watch it for three or four days. Google to see what people are saying. Hopefully they're only nice things. If your company is blogging, it'll show up in Google, and for general search results, you'll come up higher.

Goodwin: How do you know when topics have passed and it's time to move on? How do you keep engagement going?

Goza: You have to be a member of the community. You have to blog out and blog in. You'll know when a topic has run its course because no one else is talking about it ieither.

Clarke: Just be engaged. If you have people in your organization who are engaged, chances are they're already blogging. The Net is littered with Blogspot blogs that are past their time. The meme of the week,.

Warner: That's the beauty of it. It's OK for blogs to die.

Dan Bricklin: I hear a lot about PR and marketing, but blogs are conversation. Look at development. Blogs can be useful in development because your customers know more than you do. Talk about those other areas.

Goodwin: What use does blogging have in research?

Warner: Find out how your customers are using your products, services, or technologies. Use them as your best ambassador to the world.

Bruner: You mean in a blog context?

Clarke: Ebay has a way of highlighting its most active users. AOL has done that for years. Marketing departments have shied from communicating with their customers for years. See if you can get into a dialogue.

Goodwin: In my company, we're encouraging people to have an ongoing blog as a conversation with the most engaged customers and prospects. We come at it with a certain thought process, but the community continues to build and influence us.

Goza: Look at the tools like the RSS feeds and the trackbacks. Look at who's looking at you. Companies who are afraid of communicating with their customers should know that I put my email address on my blog. Chris Pirillo of Lockergnome sent out a question from me -- "What do you think of Windows?" -- to his list, which has, like, a million readers. How many emails do you think I got? Maybe 30. I was really scared to do that, but now that I have, it's a non-issue. Once you open the door, you can't go back. Are you committed to the fact that you might show up in the Register as having the worst blog in the world?

Goodwin: That's a commitment you don't realize until you experience it. As a marketer, when I think about blogging, I think about engaging my key customers in verticals as a focus group.

Clarke: Technorati is one of the most important things in the blogging world. That's a great way of tracking the aura of dialogues that are happening.

Bruner: On the whole subject of feedback from readers and community, I'd like to offer some caution. It can be difficult to get feedback and response to your blog. You see a lot of comments boxes with zero comments.

Goza: I disagree with that. For the last four years, my job has been the squishiest job at Microsoft. They ask for some hard numbers, and I say, I don't have any. But just the fact that we're in a conversation is important. The only ROI that you have from doing a blog is that there's one person reading it.

Warner: One of the most important things is that in today's environment, every company wants to connect with the customer. You don't know if you're getting to them, You don't know if they're responding. The possibilities of blogs are tremendous. You can not only reach out and touch a customer but learn that they like being touched.

Goodwin: When I look at research, it's qualitative, not quantitative. Before we go to questions, I have another question: How do you approach journalists who do blogs?

Mooney: We just started including blogs in our database of accredited journalists, and I got a lot of emails screaming at me what is an accredited journalist. So we approached the journalists and asked if they'd be open to clients pitching their blog. They were extremely open to it. In some cases, you don't care if it's a journalist or not. If someone's influential, it's important not to pretend you're part of their community. Be honest. Don't send press releases. You want to build a relationship. Know what someone writes about. What they think is funny. What they might put a link to.

Clarke: I was less than entirely flattering about what MediaMap did. This guy jumped in and said, hey, we're just testing the water. Thank you for your feedback. I really hope that blogs and blogging rings the final death knell of the art of the pitch. It's such a broken form of communication. Blogging brings in more human voice to the conversation.

Warner: Michael, shame on you. Pitch means to inform. We're in the new form. Don't put us all in the same category, please.

Bruner: Yeah, you do have to approach blogs in a different way. But on the other hand, there are lots of blogs that point to press releases. Gizmodo was flown out to Redmond, Washington, on Microsoft's dime.

Goza: I flew them out! That was me!

Bruner: Dr. Pepper shot themselves in the foot. Keep in mind that a lot of people at this conference are bloggers rather than marketers. There's just a handful of corporate blogs in the world right now. What the future is is yet to be seen.

Clarke: There will be clueful blogs and there will be clueless blogs.

Bruner: The ones that suck won't be read.

Goza: I invited Gizmodo out to Redmond because they're influential. The first time I did this was three years ago. You need to treat these people with more respect.

Warner: I don't think they're holier than thou. They should be open, I would think, to receiving information. The reason why the pitch gets a bad name is because they're usually blanket pitches. Everything has to be very personalized.

Jason Shellen: "Pitch" sounds like something I don't want to be done to me. I don't want someone to educate me. I want to learn. You have to get out of that mindset.

Bruner: There's a need in a lot of organizations to more efficiently publish information.

Goodwin: Meeting Beth as a representative of Microsoft was a breath of fresh air. I hope to do a similar thing with my company for people in customer support. They will reflect on the company good and bad.

Administrivia: I met with Goza during the 2001 CoF Roadshow.

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